Greetings, my magnificent mail-minions! I’ve got a swell—dare I say it, keen group of questions in this week’s mailbags, but I want to try something. If you have a question for the postman, you can email me, but you can also leave it in the comments of this article, and I’ll try to round them up for next week’s column.

The best way to guarantee that I see your letter is by email, Kinja being Kinja, but I want to see if this brings in a few shorter questions. I’ve afraid there’s only room for one long-winded gasbag in this column, and it’s me. So on with the show!


Politics as Unusual

Odessa H.:

So how exactly are queens and princesses senators in Star Wars? Are all senators royalty? And is Princess Leia a Princess of Naboo? (You’re welcome by the way)

Okay, thanks for everyone who wrote in asking me about the Princess/Senator nonsense in Star Wars. I think I’ve figured out this nonsense, which George Lucas took incredibly pains to make complicated at seemingly every point possible.

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First, the Galactic Senate is the Senate. It seems like each planet appoints their representatives in whatever manner they see fit—election, appointment, fight-to-the-death, etc. All simplicity goes out the window when you get to Naboo.

First, as you may recall from The Phantom Menace, Padme was “elected” “Queen” mainly because no one told George Lucas this was insane. Yes, she was super-young, and no, there’s basically nothing about her status that we would equate with a normal member of royalty. She’s basically a president; she even served two terms as Queen (and set term limits to the monarchy, which is a ridiculous sentence to type). She was absolutely not a senator at this point, because she was ruling the planet as Queen. The reason she went to Coruscant to speak to the Senate was to plead for help against the Trade Federation, as actual Naboo senator Palpatine was dragging his heels.

So after her term as Queen was up, she was elected Senator, which is where we find her in Attack of the Clones. So 100% not a queen anymore, just a senator. It seems like Palpatine, having been elected to Supreme Chancellor in TPM, basically had to quit being a normal planetary senator, so that’s why he and Padme don’t try to work together (besides Palpatine being an evil jerk).

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Then of course Padme dies, and we move to the equally confusing but somehow totally different situation on Alderaan, where Obi-Wan and Yoda decided to hide Leia. Despite the fact her mother was a Queen for a while, Leia is not a princess because of her blood; instead she’s a Princess because she was adopted by Queen Breha of Alderaan, who regal status seems to be a normal monarchy and some weird-o election. For the record, Leia’s adoptive father Bail Organa was not King of Alderaan, but instead Royal Consort or Prince, having married into the royal family.

This is actual important, because it appears that ol’ Breha gave most of Alderaan’s Galactic Senatorial positions to her loved ones, including Bail and, later, Princess Leia. So as Queen, Breha was certainly too busy running the planet to serve in the senate, but the Royal Consort and Princess could. (Admittedly, Bail and Leia could have been elected by the people, but certainly their royal connections would have made them shoe-ins.)

If you’re wondering why Obi-Wan and Yoda decided to hide one of Anakin Skywalker’s kids in a place where she would inevitably have a high-profile role in galactic politics, remember they also decided to hide Anakin’s other kid with his brother-in-law on his home planet. They were terrible at hiding babies, period.


The Light Fantastic

Neil S.:

Fantastic Four: that movie was bad. It was clearly a trainwreck. It was a trainwreck before it ever started shooting. We all knew it.

Question is: did Marvel, knowing that it was so bad, cancel Fantastic Four the comic bc they didn’t want it tarnished by that film? The popular theory is that they kneecapped the first family of Marvel to hurt Fox, but what if they knew - just from early scripts and casting - that the movie was going to be so unbelievably awful that they needed to protect the facet of the property that they controlled? Like, cut it off, split up the team, and let the awful funk of that film dissipate before triumphantly resurrecting them in time for the Trump administration. Just crazy enough to work?

PS - it’s the Trump administration that causes the apocalypse isn’t it? It’s ok you can tell me.

No, Marvel did not cancel the Fantastic Four comic to avoid the taint of the movie. Honestly, any attention the movie could have given the comic would have been great, because as I always say, comic sales are a drop in the bucket compared to the money the movies make. Here: In August 2014, Fantastic Four #8 sold 30,000 copies; at $4 an issue, that’s $120,000. As much as this year’s Fantastic Four movie bombed, it made over $26 million during its opening weekend, which at $10 for an average movie ticket equals 2.6 million viewers. The Fantastic Four comic readers make up barely 1% of the people who bothered to see the universally-regarded-as-crappy movie. If the movie had made another 30,000 interested in checking out the comic, even just in morbid curiosity, Marvel would have been thrilled.

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P.S.—Yeah, of course the apocalypse is President Trump’s fault. Could there be any more obvious an outcome?


Game Time

J.:

Dear Mr Postman,

In your timeline, do films based on video games ever become as good as films based on comics?

I watched Hitman: Agent 86 the other week, and it was pretty terrible as a film. The story was well-trodden, the characters were weak, and it was a mishmash of genres. Then I watched Scott Pilgrim and Guardians of the Galaxy, which are both great films. I also rewatched a comic based film I don’t like – Man of Steel – and even though I hate Zach Snyder as a director and think MoS is his worst film yet, if someone sat me down and said “you can either watch Man of Steel or Prince of Persia” (which is one of the best game films out there) I would have to say Man of Steel. It’s a better film in every way.

Why is this? I know there’s an argument to be made about money and actors and blah blah, but Prince of Persia had Jake Gyllenhaal and was directed by Mike Newell… not exactly nobodies asking for handouts for food. I know the Warcraft film is coming out soon, and it’s got the right kind of people involved to kick off the whole “hey, we can make good films out of game franchises!” era, but at the same time I really despair that we’ll never see anything good come from games, and I wonder if game studios should stop bastardising their IP and simply stick to making games?

The day of the quality video game movie is coming, and it’s coming soon. There’s a lot of traps people fall into when trying to turn a video game into a movie, and it’s the same traps that people fell into while trying to make comic book movies in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Here’s what you need:

• You need a video game with a decent story.

• You need a director and writer who not only understand the medium, but respect it.

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• That writer and director also need to know how to translate the game’s premise and setting.

• You need a studio that’s willing to take a real shot at making it a blockbuster, • and not some $30 million cheap-o action flick like Hitman or Tomb Raider or whatever.

• You need a game that not only works as a movie, but that fans want to see onscreen.

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That’s really it, and so far no video game movie has managed all of these things. Maybe Prince of Persia came closest, but while that was a fun game series, it didn’t have much of a story worth adapting. It was an action game based on platforming and killin’ monsters, with a setting and a premise. A larger story had to be concocted around it, and not only was it not that interesting to Prince of Persia fans (who weren’t ever buying the game for the story) but wasn’t interesting to mass audiences, either. A truly good video game movie will have to be made so that it appeals to mass audiences as well as gamers, just like Bryan Singer’s first X-Men movie did.

The Assassin’s Creed franchise has an extensive setting and story that could be mined for a movie, but I’m not sure that as much as I enjoy the games, it will work as a film. Will Michael Fassbender be playing his modern self and his past life? That’s what AC fans probably want, but that sounds like it’s going to be incredibly awkward to translate into film. Also awkward? Fassbender’s assassin outfit. Yes, it’s straight out of the games, and yes, I have no complaint with it in the games. But seeing it on a real person? Ugh. Imagining him wearing it throughout the movie? Double ugh. I have sincere doubts mass audiences will go for it.

There is a potential light at the end of this particular tunnel, and it’s the Warcraft movie. It’s got a massive cast and setting and actual events for a quality script to be hewn from. Obviously, Legendary Pictures is spending insane, Lord of the Rings-level money on it. And director Duncan Jones, while not perfect, is a good, thoughtful filmmaker who I doubt would have taken it if he just planned on churning out a mediocre summer blockbuster. There’s still plenty that can go wrong, but given Warcraft’s insane fan base, and the fact that it’ll be a hell of a lot more interesting to see the fantasy world of Warcraft come to life than the generic Hitman and Max Paynes of the world, and I think Warcraft is our best bet to break the cycle of crappy video game movies.

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And once it does, and other studios see video game movies can be popular and profitable if actually done well, they’ll be inspired to trying t duplicate its success. There’ll be a lot more crappy movies made, but then there should be so more genuinely good movies in there, too.


More Than Meets the Eye

Nathaniel K.:

Dear Mr. Postman, sir.

For some time know, I have been wondering about the sexuality of one of the characters from the ‘90s cartoon Transformers: Beast Wars, Tigatron. Basic facts:

-The Transformers in this show transform into animals that they have scanned. These “Beast Modes” are comprised of actual organic tissue (there are several instances of them eating, and a fully organic clone of one character’s Beast Mode is made once) and are more than just cosmetic, as several episodes revolve around how the Transformers interact with their Beast Mode’s animal instincts.

-Tigatron is referred to using male pronouns, has a masculine voice, and generally identifies as being gendered male.

-However, the white tiger his Beast Mode is based on is female.

-In addition, Tigatron spends a lot of time with said female white tiger, whom he calls Snowstalker, and while not explicitly stated, even as a kid their relationship appeared to be romantic in nature, which impression was confirmed by a re-watch as an adult.

-Later on in the series, Tigatron enters into what is explicitly a romantic relationship with another Transformer, Airrazor, who is identified as female.

-At one point, Tigatron and Airrazor are fused into a single entity referred to as Tigerhawk, who is identified as male.

-To further confuse matters, in the Japanese dub, Airrazor was made male, and their relationship was depicted as being platonic up until the point it was no longer possible, and they were shown as being a gay couple.

So, with all this information, would it be fair to say Tigatron is LGBT (insofar as such terminology can be applied to an alien robot)? And if so, what, err, category of LGBT does he fit into, as I can see viable arguments for him being gay, bi, trans, or even lesbian?

Well, I think you can make a strong case for this Transformer being LGBT based on the myriad factors you’ve mentioned; of course, I doubt Hasbro would ever being willing to authenticate this as part of Transformers lore, seeing as it’s tough to get them to make figures of heterosexual Caucasian women. (Although I’d point out that having a trans-Transformer would be a hell of a lot more progressive than Michael Bay giving Devastator testicles in Revenge of the Fallen.)

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So I’m down with that, and if you’re down with that interpretation, great. Someone on the internet will likely freak out somewhere, but to hell with them. That said, I don’t feel comfortable specifying Tigatron’s gender or sexuality—mainly because I don’t think we should do that for anyone. I know this is just a fictional robot from a ‘90s cartoon, but it’s not for us to decide.

So based on the evidence we do have—which is likely all we’re going to get—it appears to me that all we can say is that Tigatron is genderfluid, much as Orange Is the New Black actress Ruby Rose identifies as. As far as we can tell, Tigatron is not limited to one gender or one sexuality, and that’s totally cool.


You Got the Touch

Madman With A Box

Hello Mr. Mailman,

I was thinking about Superman not even bothering to shrug off the bullets that hit him when this occurred to me - how is he able to feel *ahem* Lois Lane’s “touch”? I realize that he can sense when he’s being touched but the intent might not be easily delivered.

Isn’t this sort of a Nemean Lion situation? Only his own hands should be strong enough to make him feel if his skin is hard as steel.

There’s a difference between not feeling pain and not feeling anything at all.

The sense of touch is when nerve endings in your flesh send a signal to your brain that something is there, and what it’s like. It could be warm, it could be cold, it could be soft or rough or heavy or whatever—there are a variety of receptors that help explain what the hell you’re touching.

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This obviously includes pain, which is your nerve cells warning you “OH GOD SOMETHING IS WRONG MAKE IT STOP.” Now, people have different pain thresholds; it’s why if you pinch someone they might squeal in agony, while someone else may merely give you an annoyed stare. Superman is that, just turned all the way—he doesn’t feel a bullet as anything more than a mild pinch, because it doesn’t damage his body. There’s no reason for his nerves to process it as pain.

Basically, Superman’s invulnerability isn’t because he can’t feel, it’s that his Kryptonian body doesn’t register things like bullets and supervillain fists and so forth as being painful. He’s not as hard as steel, but he’s as effectively tough as steel. But there’s no reason to suspect all his other nerve endings work at a reasonable level, allowing him to enjoy all the non-painful physical pleasures Earth has to offer.

Did I just explain how someone is able to give Superman a handjob? I feel like I just explained how someone is able to give Superman a handjob.


Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the postman@io9.com OR leave ‘em herein the comments. No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!